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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics) Paperback – September 26, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Shambhala Classics
  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; Later Printing edition (September 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570623449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570623448
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (440 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Much like Zen, Pema Chodron's interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism takes the form of a nontheistic spiritualism. In When Things Fall Apart this head of a Tibetan monastery in Canada outlines some relevant and deceptively profound terms of Tibetan Buddhism that are germane to modern issues. The key to all of these terms is accepting that in the final analysis, life is groundless. By letting go, we free ourselves to face fear and obstacles and offer ourselves unflinchingly to others. The graceful, conversational tone of Chodron's writing gives the impression of sitting on a pillow across from her, listening to her everyday examples of Buddhist wisdom. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Pema Chodron, a student of Chogyam Trunpa Rinpoche and Abbot of Gampo Abbey, has written the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of Harold Kushner's famous book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. As the author indicates in the postscript to her book: "We live in difficult times. One senses a possibility they may get worse." Consequently, Chodron's book is filled with useful advice about how Buddhism helps readers to cope with the grim realities of modern life, including fear, despair, rage and the feeling that we are not in control of our lives. Through reflections on the central Buddhist teaching of right mindfulness, Chodron orients readers and gives them language with which to shape their thinking about the ordinary and extraordinary traumas of modern life. But most importantly, Chodron demonstrates how effective the Buddhist point of view can be in bringing order into disordered lives.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. She is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners. She is also the author of many books and audiobooks, including the best-selling When Things Fall Apart and Don't Bite the Hook.

Customer Reviews

Pema Chodron has done this admirably.
John D. Daniels
This book does not promise short term, quick fixes but encourages a way of life that will make living more joyful and meaningful - pain, change and all.
Quaker Annie
It's the kind of book that needs to be put on a shelf and read and re-read time and time again.
Dan McKinnon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

381 of 390 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on October 7, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was just finishing this book in September 2001 when the events of 9-11 turned the world upside down, and things truly fell apart. There suddenly were all the vulnerable feelings that Pema Chödrön encourages us to embrace: fear, sorrow, loneliness, groundlessness. And in the days of shock and grief that followed, there was that brief and abundant display of "maitri," or loving kindness, which emerged in waves of generosity and compassion for one another. For a while, we were in the world that she points to as an alternative to the everyday routine of getting, spending, and constant activity.
It is nearly impossible to summarize or characterize this fine book. In some 150 pages it covers more than a person could hope to absorb in many years, if not a lifetime. We may know the Buddha's famous insight that human pain and suffering result from desire and aversion. But few writers have been able to articulate as well as Chödrön the implications of that insight in ways that make sense to the Western mind. As just one example from this book, her discussion of the "six kinds of loneliness" (chap. 9) illustrates how our desires to achieve intimacy with others are an attempt to run away from a deep encounter with ourselves. Our continuing efforts to establish security for ourselves are a denial of fundamental truths, which prevents our deep experience of the joy of living. Our reluctance to love ourselves and others closes down our hearts.
Chödrön invites us to be fascinated, as she is, by paradox. On hopelessness and death (chap. 7) she writes: "If we're willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path.
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222 of 232 people found the following review helpful By Curtis Grindahl on December 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book has resided on the shelf next to my bed for many years and has been read often. Reading through a few reviews at this site it is clear many people are willing to listen to Pema Chodron's uncompromising words about the challenges of being human. For those people seeking a few comforting bromides, who expected a self-help book, this material must surely be unwelcome. But it is far from trite and certainly not depressing. Tibetan Buddhists practice in the charnal grounds not because they're depressives, but because life ends in death for all of us. And charnal grounds in Tibet were places where hacked up bodies were fed to circling vultures...no quickly slipping a deceased body into a casket to avoid confronting the withered body or the odors associated with illness and death for these Buddhists.
When I attended a Pema Chodron lecture some years ago she announced that her favorite manta is "Om, grow up!" It takes great courage to meet life on life's terms and accept responsiblity for our actions. And since life invariably brings challenges associated with disappointment and loss, the work continues to the moment of death. In our addicted society, that is a message all too readily rejected. Pema is not for the faint of heart! But if you intend to claim your aliveness, to risk intimacy, to share joy, her words are worth attending to. Namaste.
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102 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on May 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book does not promise short term, quick fixes but encourages a way of life that will make living more joyful and meaningful - pain, change and all.

This is not a book of "thought" filled advice from the mind, but a book (as the subtitle states) of heart advice. Pema openly shares some of her own experience as things fall apart, when her old way of doing things was no longer working.

I bought it to give to my (fully grown) son when he was going through some difficult times. It wasn't what he needed or related to, so I read it myself.

I like the way she points out that when things fall apart, that usually means we are on the brink of a change of some kind. My usual practice is to try to hold on to the familiar ways, but as I am finding out, that just doesn't work. And if it does, I am usually even more miserable. Depending on the kind of change you are experiencing, allowing it to happen with less resistance, without fear, can ease the opening to a new way.

This is a disturbing thought to many of us. Give in? No way. Why, what if your spouse is cheating and you lose your job and you have a fatal illness and the sky is falling and you don't resist? (Ah, well -- most probably your spouse will still have cheated, that job will be lost, you will still have the illness and the sky will continue to fall.)

On page 10 she says, "To stay with that shakiness -- to stay wth a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge-- that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic-- that is the spirtual path.
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254 of 282 people found the following review helpful By T. Porges on September 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm giving this very good book one star so I can join the one-star people here at the bottom, and say something in reply to their anger and despair. They are angry at Trungpa and then at Pema, because the message coming from the former and followed by his disciple is, you cannot escape the pain of your obsessions unless you are willing to lose them. Meditation is not a soothing massage after which you can jump right back into the habits that harmed you in the first place. What kind of progress are you making, then? And what is continued bondage to obsession, but despair?

Whether or not you practice Buddhism as a religion, there is no sense in practicing it unless you understand your personal goals to be caught up in compassion. A number of the complainers here talk about depression as a good reason to turn away from others and seek some kind of palliative numbness. Do that if you want to, but in time you will find yourself disappointed with your practice, and distracted by your anxiety and selfishness, which will continue to threaten you. You will find yourself drawn, after all, to compassion. If it was good enough for the Buddha, it should be good enough for you. Your depression and those distractions are one and the same thing, and compassion is the key to unlocking them, and dissolving the depression while turning away from selfishness and your inventory of reasons for anger. This is all very good advice, and I've done a spotty job of following it, but my own progress in alleviating depression has, without question, begun with compassion for the people I perceived as my enemies. You can choose to be healthy or sick, but you can't choose to be healthy while hanging on to the habits that made you sick in the first place.
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